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Google Catalogs was launched some ten months ago. Although they don't charge merchants to have a cataloged scanned into the database the door is still open as to if/what they will charge for some of the "additional elements" listed on the vendors page. [catalogs.google.com]
It would take a lot of computer power, but as I understand images are cached, and maybe some idle servers could do the work in the weekend.
If I were looking for a graph with the relation ship between pressure and temperature of a specific gas in a certain unit, Google could find it for me. Not all autors of webarticles are good enough in putting descriptive text in the alt-tag or the surrounding bodytext describing the graph.
I was a little bit puzzled by the Google Catalogues thing. What could be the purpose? Its a good idea and would make a good supplementary search system for all the industries that rely on catalogues - such as fashion, textiles. Now we know the system of free for market share then start levelling charges once established. Using this rule I see no reason why Google could not mailshot those who have been put in their catalogue and say "hey upgrade you're catalogue to a full hi-res backup". Charging a flat rate and then there is a central point for online digital distribution of cataglogues. I am sure this little exercise is just to get email addresses for future scenarios.
You can see the importance of this program because they see 5000 catalogues as a milestone. Clearly there are many many companies with catalogues so 5000 on a global audience is pretty insignificant.
Google will I think try and do a Yahoo and suceed.
I've heard that in the canteen of Google they have 300 grams of lettuce in avn averaqe BLT. But in Yahoo's they have 350 grams. Intersting? NOT REALLY!
"2. Are there any catalogs that will not be included in the search?
Google's beta catalog search focuses on standard U.S. mail-order product catalogs which have prices printed in them and are designed to help customers make a purchase immediately. At this time we are not including foreign catalogs, travel guides, course catalogs".... etc
I also do comparison or reference pricing from brick & mortar businesses for purchase orders.